St. Lucia Day w/ Lucia Bun recipe

St. Lucia Day

It’s the 13th of December, and the sun is not quite up yet. (John just came in with the news that Rosemary, the goat who’s still milking, “kicked the bucket- literally- milk everywhere!”, so no milk today, but extra laundry.) At this time of year the light is precious. I am frequently surprised at how early it gets dark. In higher latitudes like Scandinavia it’s even worse. On December 13 it rises at 9:11 am and sets at 3:11 pm- and that’s in Oslo (on the south coast)! In Trondheim sunrise/sunset are at 9:55- 2:30! In Mo i Rana, it rises at 10:34, and sets at 1:21 pm, in Hammerfest (way up north) it never comes up at all. No wonder in Norway they find the light something to celebrate!

St. Lucy- a saint from sunny Italy who’s name means “light”, they celebrate by having the daughters greet their parents in bed on St. Lucia’s Day, with saffron buns, and coffee. The girl wears a white gown and a wreath with lighted candles on her head, so while I’ve heard of it being the youngest daughter, I think oldest is more likely. Towns also have parades and “the most beautiful” girl is chosen to be the St. Lucy Queen. It’s a general holiday.

In our house, Ælfwine made a wreath with a set of electric candles powered by a small battery, which is incredibly reassuring for parents. We don’t have the “in bed” service any more, but we will not forgo the saffron buns.

FREYA’S CATS

These can be recognized as the saffron buns  called Luciakats, and served by daughters to mothers on December 13th. They are too good to be eaten only once a year, but if that’s the only time you can afford the saffron, once a year is better than never. Note: Saffron is small red threads- the stamens of the saffron crocus, not safflower- often used in Spanish cooking, also to make food yellow, but it’s a totally different flavor.

Proof:                 2 tbsp. yeast in

1/2 cup warm water

And dissolve up to    1 tsp. saffron in

2 tsp. boiling water

scald                  1 1/2 cups  milk, let cool

stir                     1/2 cup of honey

1/2 cups butter       into the milk,

it will melt the butter and help cool the milk., then add the saffron water. When the yeast is foamy, and the milk cooled enough not to kill the yeast, pour it into

5 cups bread or AP flour and

1 tsp. salt

stir in                  2 beaten eggs and

2-3 more cups flour to make a soft dough.

Depending on the flour, and how much liquid you used (sometimes I rinse the saffron or yeast cups with a bit of water to make sure I got it all), the amount of flour is variable.

Knead well, cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down and knead again. Divide into about two dozen pieces. Roll into snakes then coil these up into tight Ss.(which look to some like sleeping cats- go ahead, coil the ropes into any shapes you like!) Decorate with raisins, and let rise, covered, about a half hour.  Bake. For the last five minutes, brush with an egg yolk beaten into a tablespoon of water to glaze.

time: 25 minutes.  temp.: 400º      yield: 2-4 dozen

There are shapes that have traditional names: lussekatter (lucy’s cats), Julgalt  (yule boar), Gullvagn (gold wagon), Luciakroona (lucy’s crown), Pojkar and Lilja (little boys and little girls), Bok (buck), Yuloxe (yule ox), and Broa (a squiggle) {I’ll post images soon}

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